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March 1, 2014
Another View: Legalize, regulate and tax Internet gambling

internet_poker.JPG(March 1 - By Lloyd Levine, Special to The Bee)

Internet gambling is already legal in California.

California sanctions and regulates Internet wagering on horse racing. There is no reason such wagers should be limited to horse racing.

Internet poker should be regulated and taxed, too. Not because it will provide a windfall for the state, but because not doing so fails to recognize the practical realities of the Internet and human behavior. ("State legalization of Internet poker is a losing wager"; Editorials, Feb. 27)

The nature of the Internet makes enforcement of existing prohibitions on Internet poker virtually impossible. Just take a few minutes and type "Internet poker for money" into a Google search. If you have a credit card, you can be gambling with real money in 10 minutes.

While Internet gambling may be "illegal," there are no shortages of websites ready and willing to accept U.S.-based players.

Further, the offshore websites have no U.S. gaming licenses and are not subject to U.S. law.

No one can predict what revenue Internet poker will generate for California, which is why arguments for legalization shouldn't focus on revenue generation. However, there are plenty of other reasons to allow and regulate Internet gambling.

The current regulatory and legal framework doesn't protect legitimate players from unscrupulous sites and doesn't assist with problem gambling. All the current system does is prevent California's legal gambling establishments from competing against the illegal operators.

Legalizing Internet gaming will not eliminate the problems associated with the unregulated, offshore sites, but it will provide a safer alternative.

Sites that are regulated by the state will be required to employ the latest in advanced technology to help address the problems. Age-verification software can prevent underage gambling. Deposit limits can help limit the amount problem gamblers can wager. Algorithms can be used to detect and prevent collusion, cheating and financial abuses.

No system is foolproof.

If someone is determined to gamble underage or gamble more than is prudent, the best technology in the world can't prevent that from happening.

But that holds true in casinos as well as and isn't a good argument for doing nothing.

The current law has been in place since 2006 and has served to benefit no one except the offshore gaming operators.

By legalizing Internet poker, California can allow its existing, legal, tax-paying gaming establishments to compete with the offshore operators and provide a safer gaming alternative for residents who are gaming anyway.

Lloyd Levine, a former assemblyman who introduced legislation to legalize intrastate Internet poker, is president of Filament Strategies, a political consulting company.



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